Magic of nature, on exhibit today


Observant Nigerians can, today, watch the greatest of all magicians at work, as the Moon casts its shadow across Earth’s surface to produce a solar eclipse—nature’s most spectacular visual effect.

“It going to be a little less dramatic than the last one,” Director General of National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA), Professor S.O. Mohammed, conceded, “but exciting nonetheless.”

In an interview at his office in Abuja, Mohammed urged teachers,lecturers, civil servants and other citizens to watch the obscuration, “even though it’s only partial”.

Said he: “NASRDA has placed Nigerians on alert, in order to derive the maximum educational and public awareness benefits for our nation.”
According to the Space Agency’s media notice, the partial annular eclipse will be visible throughout Nigeria, although its visibility is skewed towards the southernmost landmass.

“In logistical terms,” explained Professor Tunde Rabiu, Director, Centre for Atmospheric Research (CAR), at Anyigba, Kogi State, “this means that the people in Port Harcourt will have a front row seat”.

The display begins at 4:43 pm in the Garden City, 4:54 in Abuja, 5:02 in Kano, 4:46 in Lagos, 04:45 pm in Owerri, 4:48 in Ibadan and 5:06 in Sokoto—the place it will appear last.

“Different Nigerian cities,” Rabiu said, “depending on the location,shall experience different percentage of Sun’s coverage and eclipse duration progressively between 4:44 pm and 6:27 pm.”

Professor F.E. Opara, Director of the Centre for Basic Space Science, at Nsukka, advised strongly, “Nigerians, especially youth, should not be discouraged because the obscuration is not total”.

An annular eclipse occurs when the Moon passes between Earth and Sun,while approaching the most distant point in its elliptical orbit.

“Consequently,” Opara noted, “the lunar disc doesn’t quite cover the Sun, whose edges are exposed. The visual effect is a ring-like appearance. Hence this type of eclipse if called ‘annular,’ meaning ‘ring’.”

The extent of obscuration will vary, Rabiu said, according to location, with residents of Port Harcourt seeing the greatest amount of the solar disc covered (35.84%) and those of Sokoto the least (16.9%).
“No matter the degree of obscuration,” counselled Ronke Obafaye, a Scientific Officer at CAR, “it’s still worth watching. But observers shouldn’t look directly at the Sun—but rather into a bucket of water.”

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